Where we work
We work on the Greek island of Samos to support the most vulnerable members of of the refugee community.
The situation on Samos
Originally built for 650, the camp at its highest point housed 9,000 people in 2019. The situation has changed considerably in recent months, due to a concerted effort to reduce the number of people living on the Greek islands.
There are now, approximately, 800 people living in the Samos camp (according to UNHCR figures from July 2021). This reduction is a result of huge transfers to the mainland, an acceleration in asylum seeking applications, as well as a severe decrease in the number of people arriving on the islands, mainly because of the structural pushbacks operated by frontex and the Greek coast guard.
Despite this decrease, the camp on Samos remains unfit for human habitation. Amenities have been stretched to breaking point over the years, and showers no longer work, bathroom doors do not lock and toilets overflow with human waste.
Degrading, unsanitary and unmaintained, the camp is not fit for housing the refugee population. Many make shelters outside the camp’s barbed wire fences, in an area of scrubland known as the ‘jungle’.
Here there is no electricity or running water, and with the path to camp being unlit, the use of any facilities at night is unsafe and impossible. The hillside that houses the camp and the so-called ‘jungle’ is also exposed to the elements; gale force winds, torrential rains and freezing temperatures in the winter and in the summer, blistering heat.
In addition to this, there is no official waste disposal unit in the camp, meaning rubbish and refuse collects between people’s shelters, inviting rats, snakes and other vermin to plague the lives of the camp’s residents.
Food on Samos
The food situation only exacerbates these dire and inhumane living conditions. Those who do receive a food parcel are given partially defrosted microwaveable meals. These are regularly past their sell-by-dates, with mould gathering on the top, and the contents crawling with maggots.
Project Armonia was established in July 2019 to address this failure. Our free-restaurant serves warm, nutritious meals, which in 2019 was focused on those who needed it most, such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, disabled people, and those no longer eligible to receive food in camp.
Recently, however, our target groups have evolved. As a result of high numbers of people leaving the island and our capacity having increased, the population is now at a level that we are able to open up our restaurant to everyone, meaning anyone who remains on the island is eligible to receive food at the restaurant.
The New Camp
In September 2019, the Greek government announced that it would be constructing new camps on the Aegean Islands to ease overcrowding.
On Samos, construction of the new camp began in February 2020. It has been built on a remote hillside, a two-hour walk from Vathy, and a considerable distance from any other settlement.
As it stands, the new camp resembles an open-air prison, with no shade, no social spaces, and tightly packed rows of containers able to house 8 people each, behind high barbed wire fences.
It remains unclear the exact structure of the camp, however it has been said it will be a controlled closed or restricted camp, with curfews in place.
The camp is now ready to house 1,200 people, and the move will begin at the end of September 2021. Construction, however, continues, with the ambition to increase the size to be capable of housing 4,000 people. It also contains detention centres where people with second rejections will be held to await deportation.
Media resources to learn more
People risk their lives to make the crossing to Europe, expecting safety. Instead, they are met with dangerous, unsanitary and deplorable conditions. If you want to know more about it, please find below links about the situation on Samos.
- ‘Worse than in Syria’ – Zenith, 07.06.2021
- Samos – a hotspot once more? – Action for Education
- Report on means to address the human rights of pushbacks of migrants – United Nations Human Rights Council, 12.05.2021
- EU sends mixed messages on Turkey as ‘safe’ haven – EU Observer, 09.06.2021
- EU powerhouses ask Greece to do more to take back migrants – Politico, 03.06.2021
- Frontex at Fault: European Border Force complicit in ‘illegal’ pushbacks – Bellningcat, 23.10.2020